Open Letter to WTC…Again.

*edit/update*  I had no idea this post would get so much attention.  I’m flattered that so many of you took notice, whether you agree with my rantings or not.   For the record, I’m the loud mouth, outspoken younger sister.  While Holly is upset that she didn’t get her medal, everything stated below is my opinion, not hers.  That said, I won’t apologize for my opinions; this is my blog after all, my corner of the internet to ramble on about whatever I see fit at any given moment.  My intentions were to call out WTC/Ironman not for a simple “mistake”, but instead the way they handled the mistake.  Call it “throwing under the bus” if you wish, but frankly, it wasn’t the way I would expect a top notch racing organization to handle this sort of situation.      I assure you this rant would be far worse if it happened to me.  Lucky for all of you, I’m just being the obnoxious, protective little sister. 

What do I want from all of this?  
1. The finishers who didn’t get their medals to finally  get their medals (going on 6 weeks, still nothing), and more so
2. Ironman: don’t doubt your customers.  A  “oh hey, sorry, but we didn’t think you were gonna finish” isn’t right in my book.  Ever.  (
“Limits? What Limits?”  Where did I hear that catch phrase again?)

So, there you have it.  And with that, let’s have a toast. Long live the internet!!  A place where we are all free to write open letters regarding  someone else’s shiny finishers medals that we apparently care too much about, or form harsh opinions on people we have never, ever met before and spew said opinions behind the anonymity of a chat board username.   Cheers! 

;)

 Update #2 from Holly:

I’ll be sure and update when I actually receive the package in the mail. I’m not looking for anything additional, just what every other athlete received. And for the record, I was told at the Finish Line by a Volunteer/Staff (It’s not clear who they were) as they wrote down my name, “We had more finishers than we anticipated.” I would have much rather heard “We lost some hats and medals.” I have worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for a local race with 5,000 participants, misplaced or delivered boxes, I can certainly understand. The implication that they did not anticipate the last 20 or so athletes? That still smarts a little.

Update #3 : http://relentlessforwardcommotion.com/2013/12/sisters/

Update #4:

IM

Finally.

 

Dear World Triathlon Corporation/Ironman,

A few years ago your greed really ruffled my feathers.   I vented in an open letter that garnered a little bit of attention, and I was very happy when my, and thousands of other triathletes, voices were heard and you decided to do away with your absurd Access Ironman program.   I get that we all make mistakes, and I appreciated that you admitted that perhaps your grand idea wasn’t nearly as beneficial for your athlete and fan base as it was for your bottom line.   I forgave you.

But now you’ve messed with my family, and frankly I’m pretty disgusted.

Five weeks ago, my sister Holly finished Ironman Florida.  The clock read 16:46:59 as she crossed the finish line. A thirteen minute and one second buffer stood between her finish time and the cutoff, making her an OFFICIAL finisher.

I wish you knew how much more than 140.6 miles was put into that finish.

Your race, however, draws amazing athletes from around the world.  So perhaps her story of struggle, of life threatening cancer, of a year of chemo, of her not letting cancer stop her, of being a SURVIVOR, of designing a program to encourage other cancer survivors to step up to the start line,  of her being pulled off of her first Ironman course, but not taking defeat and instead coming back to try again, of doubts, of fears, of injuries, and finally of finishing… perhaps that story triumph is just another drop in the bucket to you.

On November 2, 2013, when Holly finally approached that finish line, friends and family from around the country were on pins and needles watching from their computer screens.  When the announcer stopped her in the finishers chute, turned her to face the crowd, and shouted “Wait a minute Holly…wait a minute….we have something to tell you. Holly Shoemaker…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” friends, family, and loved ones across the country cheered.

Holly

Holly and the emcee

When she crossed that finish line with her hands in the air…well I can’t speak for everyone else, but I cried like a baby.

Holly2

photo credit: Holly’s facebook

Holly Shoemaker, you are an Ironman.  Actually, you are much, much more than that. You are an inspiration. You are a hero. You are amazing. Ironman is lucky to have YOU among their ranks. 

The finish line. Every potential Ironman athlete dreams of that moment.  They dream of the feeling of victory, of all of that hard work finally coming to fruition as they run through the finishes chute, full of screaming cheerleaders, bright lights, and loud music.  Of the moment when they breathlessly cross the finish line and a smiling volunteer places that coveted finishers medal around their neck and offers sincere congratulations.

Except Holly was immediately told at the finish line “oh, sorry, we’ve run out of finisher’s medals (and hats, for what it is worth)…we’ll be sure to send you one.”  And she wasn’t the only one: at least twenty other athletes who finished before the midnight cutoff time were told the same thing.

I know it may seem trite.  I know many people will say that the finisher’s medal doesn’t take away from the accomplishment.  And yes, that is true. No one and no material item can take away what Holly did that day.  But here’s the thing: for many people, the finisher’s medal IS part of the experience.    NOT having that coveted shiny medal waiting for you at the finish line can feel like a kick in the already unsettled, full of GU, stomach.  Could you imagine an Olympic athlete stepping on the podium to accept a gold medal, and the officials say “ohhh sorry about that, we ran out of them during the figure skating finals.  We’ll send you one in the mail though!”  Sure, an Ironman isn’t the Olympics, but for many, the accomplishment is pretty damn close. 

Even worse is being told that they didn’t think they’d have that many finishers. Nothing like a vote of confidence, WTC.   

Let’s look at the facts:  Ironman entry fees cost upwards of $700.   Registration is typically sold out within days of opening.  There are ZERO race day sign ups.  There are ZERO bandits.  Sure, in theory there will be people who do not show up, and there will be people who DNF.  But for a race of this magnitude, and of this significant cost, with almost a year of foresight into how many participants you will have, please tell me what the excuse is for NOT having enough finishers medals for all of the finishers?

Alright, again, while I think a corporation of this magnitude should never make an error like this…mistakes do happen.  But now it has been five weeks, and Holly has still not been sent a medal, and instead has been given a song and dance about when she may or may not receive it. 

Perhaps I’m overreacting.  I’m sure some people will read this and again reiterate that medal or no medal, Holly finished the Ironman.  Nothing can take that away from her.   But in my humble opinion, this is an insult to your athletes, WTC.   This isn’t a  “ohhh congratulations, you shuffled a 5K, have a shiny medal” sort of an accomplishment.  This is an IRONMAN.  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile run, under 17 hours.  And let’s not forget the MONTHS of training, financial and personal sacrifice that is necessary to even get you to the starting line in the first place.  Not many people can do this.   Hell, most people wouldn’t dream of even attempting it.   Those who finish, especially those who finish in the time you designate, deserve recognition, and especially YOUR respect.  Not only as kick ass, amazing human beings…but as your CUSTOMERS. 

Everyday on facebook I see you pushing more and more Ironman branded items to sell to the masses.  Money grabbing things like “Celebrate your accomplishment with our new arrivals of Finisher gear” and “enter to win a grab bag giveaway” plaster my news feed.  Here’s an idea Ironman:  why not take care of the humble athletes who busted their asses to achieve one of the greatest athletic feats in their life?  Why not give them what was promised to them when they handed you their credit cards and said “see you at the finish line?”

Make this right, WTC.

Signed,

Heather Gannoe
(looking for a Rev3 race)

50 thoughts on “Open Letter to WTC…Again.

  1. Thanks for bringing this to light. Would you mind posting links to WTC’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, so we can share our opinions with them?

  2. I did a sprint tri in October. Got a flat tire which added 40 minutes to my time. I almost didn’t go on the run because I was so discouraged, but I did because I wanted that finishers medal. And by the time I finished they, too, had run out. I was highly disappointed. But I can’t imagine how disappointed your sister must be to not get her IM finishers medal. That’s disgraceful!

  3. Yeah I Agree 1000% ! This is not overdone and you are not going off line at all in my opinion. I have never done an ironman, but i am an Elite OCR runner and have completed Ultra Trail Marathons as well as the larger OCR races now like Worlds Tuffest Mudder and Spartan Ultra Beast races! One of the best things/feelings you have is crossing that finish line and getting your shinny medal. Like you said, the medal doesnt make or break you, but it sure does feel AWESOME hanging around your neck as a reminder to you and everyone else exactly what you accomplished.

    For an organization such as IronMan to do this to someone is pitiful! I hope they fix this soon for your sister and get her what is rightly hers! In the mean time, please tell your sister AWESOME JOB and keep up the great work! What an inspiration!

  4. Problem with this is that WTC does this for profit, especially since they are owned by a private equity. Barring catastrophic events that effect their PR, WTC really does not find the need to change how they figure out how many medals they need for each race. Remember they are owned by a private equity so squeezing everything they can out of a dollar is the objective. If that means having less medals then signed up participants knowing x amount will not start or DNF based on previous years they will do it. Also WTC’s home office has 7 staff members, they have a lot on their hands.

    • I absolutely understand it is for profit, most businesses are. It still isn’t an excuse. If anything, that makes the situation even worse. Signing up for the race is like entering a business contract: the customer pays the money in exchange for the race and all items designated before hand (aid stations, finishers items, etc) assuming they finish withing the designated time frame. Not having enough employees is no excuse for you to not hold up your end of the obligation.

        • exactly. If 10 customers come into a restaurant and each order (and pay for) a burger with fries, you can’t tell 3 of those people they simply don’t get their fries because the restaurant was trying to cut costs, and figured not everyone would eat them anyway.

      • I understand your point but WTC looks at it as “How badly will it hurt us if we miss a few medals for once race?” It has become very apparent over the past few years that do not have the best customer service. Do they care? I am guessing not as much as others expect them too. Does it matter to WTC? Not really, they still gross a ton of profit and sell out a very high percentage of their races instantly. The point you make is valid, but in WTC’s eyes its really not a problem.

        I always urge people in these situations to take their business elsewhere, but most don’t…why? Because the want the WTC Ironman experience….and that brings us to why this is a non-issue to WTC, they will still keep coming back, and if 500 don’t its only a fraction of their profit.

        I know your frustration but I don’t think WTC really cares much about it.

        As for the fries analogy, it doesn’t work. Why? Restaurants run out of food items all the time. Why? They budget for a certain amount, when the demand increases they run out sometimes, its part of a business model.

        • Of course the fries analogy works…you pay for an item/service, you should receive item/service. A restaurant may run out of french fries, but they will inform customer of situation BEFORE hand. They would never charge a customer for a full meal and only give them half on the premise that “well we didn’t expect you to finish it anyway.”

          Nor would the restaurant offer to send them the missing fries in the mail ;)

          But regardless, I agree with your point that WTC doesn’t care. I’ve known that since the first open letter I wrote years ago. It was why I was happy to be a member of Team Rev3 (way back when it was Team Trakkers). I support my sister and her wish to do an Ironman branded race, but I personally will not support WTC as a consumer.

          Sadly, this situation is not limited to triathlon alone. I see it in the running world, and more recently, see it rampant in the obstacle course racing world. HUGE claims of a the “best race yet”, with killer swag and an awesome after party, all to get people to register. Then they deliver only the bare minimum. More and more race directors are only looking at their bottom line…at the sacrifice of the athlete experience. It’s a damn shame.

          • I will disagree with you saying the fries analogy again. I have seen it numerous times that establishments run out while an order is in, yes they are refunded but they didn’t east the fries. Also, she had already finish the IM (eaten the fries), with the fries analogy they were never consumed.

            Also is it 100% confirmed they actually did run out of medals? Was a box misplaced? Did they have a batch of poor quality medals they didn’t want to hand out? Was their a breakdown in the volunteer chain about where the next stack of medals were?

            Companies make mistakes, it happens, I don’t get why people need to put these mistakes into social media and say how they were wronged.

            If you haven’t received your IM medal yet, send me your address and I will send you one of my IM medals. It’s not from the same race, but its the same graphic design, just a different date and location

          • We’ll have to agree to disagree bcagle25bed, I don’t think I’m painting my fries picture clearly (at least in the way I’m imagining it). Finishing the race is not comparable to eating the fries. Finishing the race would be like getting your dinner plate placed in front of you, missing the fries. The entire promised package was not delivered. For what it is worth, I worked in a very busy ocean front restaurant for 10 years and we never ran out of the almighty and very important french fries, but that’s not the point. So let’s ditch the french fry analogy and move on. ;) :P

            As far as the medals go, the owner of the company who makes the medals confirmed (on google +) that Ironman contacted him saying they ran out of medals, and needed more. So yes, that is pretty much a confirmation. Yes, mistakes happen. But almost 6 weeks later and Ironman hasn’t done much to rectify the situation. That’s pretty poor business etiquette, if you ask me. If it was indeed a misplaced box, or poor quality medals, etc, they could have explained that situation to those athletes and apologized. Instead they told my sister that they ran out because “they didn’t expect that many people to finish.” That isn’t cool, in my opinion. You know how many people are registered for your race, you plan for that many people finishing the race. It isn’t rocket science.

            Respectfully I must say, if you aren’t a fan of people bringing a clearly avoidable error up via a blog post, you are more than welcome to not read them. That is the beautiful thing about the internet: we are free to read and write, or not read and not write, for that matter, about topics that are important to us. Actually, that is the beautiful thing about this country and the first amendment.

            And while I appreciate your offer for the medal for a completely different race, I think you may have missed the entire point of my post. It isn’t about the medal…it is about the entire experience and what a significant part of that day the medal is to some people. But again, I thank you for the offer.

            Do you happen to work for WTC? Just curious, since you mentioned you know exactly how many people work in their office.

          • I do not work for WTC but a simple google search will find you the answer.

            I have also worked in the restaurant business for 10 years so I know how things work. Heck I worked in a fine dinning restaurant for years as well, you run out of inventory sometimes it happens.

            More goes into the equation of how many athletes register for a race. As I said before people don’t show up or finish, they factor that into the equation to cut costs. WTC is all about getting the absolute most out of each dollar.

            I can read whatever I want and write whatever response I want, its part of what I have rights to. In this case I feel I wanted to speak up, you paid for an experience and feel you were shorted, were you? Maybe. I don’t put the same value on medals as your friend does, but I can understand how you feel that way. It’s not that I am not a fan of what you wrote, but I just don’t understand peoples needs to make these elaborate written complaints on the behalf of someone else. I feel you are more upset then Holly is.

          • Maybe I am more upset, maybe I’m not…maybe I just have a louder voice and said much more publically what she has told me privately. I write for a living, being elaborate is what I do best ;) Regardless, my intentions were to get Ironman’s attention so they would make this right. And I did, the RD emailed Holly today with an apology. Mission complete, I’m moving on to the next blog post :)

          • EDIT: Maybe I am wrong on this, but where in the athlete guide, sign up sheet, etc. does it specifically state that you will receive your medal hung over your head directly after you finish the event in the finishers staging area? If I missed that and it’s stated then you can complain about the “experience” if it does not specifically state that exact promise then in essence you are billing the experience up beyond exactly what WTC stated they would provide and that is unfair.

  5. Wow, I CANNOT believe they ran out of medals. That is ridiculous and I agree with you. These athletes who pour their hearts and souls into these events deserve much better than this. I can’t even imagine. Another reason why I am so proud to be a member of the Rev3 age group team! Rev3 would never ever let this happen!

  6. Hey Heather–
    Sorry to see the way that WTC is treating your sister. Her story, and being a champion of her story and her accomplishment, is part of what makes this sport amazing.

    Hope to see you at a Rev3 event soon. Shoot me a message if you’ve got questions about a particular event!

  7. Hey Heather. Sorry to hear your sister didn’t get a medal. I was one of the professional athletes that raced in Florida this year. When I crossed the finish line I was taken to medical. Once in medical I realized that I too didn’t get a medal and the person looking over me went to get me one only to return and say that only the top 3 pro men and women got medals with no further explanation. I knew this wasn’t right (since I’ve finished 15+ IM races) and told them to go check again. They returned with a medal and I thought nothing of it and went on my way. If I would have known that they were in “short supply” I would have gladly not taken one especially if I knew that first timers would go medal-less. In fact, if your sister still has not gotten her medal, please send me your mailing address and I will gladly send mine down to her. Regards. Chad H.

    • Hi Chad! Thank you for the comment, and even more so, thank you for the generous offer to send Holly your medal. You are one of many who have stepped forward and messaged or commented to offer passing on your medal…and it honestly brings a huge smile to my face and tears to my eyes. Forget Ironman, forget the business of triathlon…it is the awesome ATHLETES like you that make the endurance community so amazing!! :)

    • Nice job Chad! Your response is precisely why I love this sport so much. I’m not sure there is any other sport where the pro’s are so gracious and caring! Keep up the great work, and I’ll see you on course some day!

    • Chad- you are a GOOD soul! Congrats on not only finishing, but being a pro to boot! You give pro athletes a great name!
      Heather- good for you! :) And a GIGANTIC congrats to your amazing sister- an IM was trivial in comparison to all she went through and yet she still did one!!!

  8. I have had several friends complete IM races with the same issue (no finishers metal) and even no FOOD at the finish line. It’s totally unacceptable.

  9. Well written Heather! Their actions are unbelievable and unacceptable! It is a rite of passage to cross that finish line and get that medal placed around your neck and this organization “stole” that moment from your sister! It doesn’t matter that it is “just a medal”, the high you feel when someone places that finishers medal around your neck is unmatched! I am so sorry that your sister did not get to experience, for an iron man no less. This is a once in a lifetime event for many! Shame of this organization for not ordering enough medals! And even if they didn’t think everyone was gonna finish, I think they could have afforded to “eat the cost” so to speak! O, can you tell this has me fired up? Sorry for such a long post. Congrats to your sister by the way!

  10. This is so frustrating. Holly deserves what she was told she would get, as do all the other athletes that were shafted. I understand not everyone finishes and their predictions were probably off, but there should at least be some communication or offer given to the athletes as it has been over a month at this point.

  11. The same thing happened at World’s Toughest Mudder, they ran out of 50 Miler award bibs, and thus far have sent NO communication regarding the supposed shipment of them.

  12. More of the same greed. First, congratulate your sister on her accomplishment. Second, follow up with more emails to WTC.

  13. I trained with Holly a few times in preparation for IMFL. Holly is so encouraging. You will never hear a negative comment come out of her. She is headstrong and trained very smart for this race. I was able to see her on the run a few times. Even though I was mentally in dark places, she passed by at right times and brightened me up. I am disgusted that this happening to her.

  14. As a beginning triathlete signed up for my first IM 70.3 this is frustrating. As a 13-year runner who took 7 years off due to injury only to have the Nike Women’s Marathon run out of Tiffany necklaces my first full marathon back to running, I understand the indignation. Some athletes enter the race driven by the bling but most enter for the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment in having done the event. The medal/necklace/swag is just icing on the cake but it signifies that you finished the event and in that moment, day, week, etc. it is valuable. All race medals have a “shelf life” in that one will not likely wear it the next day or on the next plane ride if it comes in the mail months later.

    Nike didn’t really provide a reason for the shortage but on a miserably cold and rainy day, being one of the last 2000 to finish the entire event, it didn’t matter. They had failed. A news reporter who was in the same situation investigated to find that bandits had jumped in with bibs of runners already finished to claim extra necklaces and that unethical act coupled with a short production accounting for those who DNS or DNF, meant a significant shortage at the finish line. It took 6 weeks to get the finisher’s necklace! How do you claim to put on a world class event at world class prices (WTC – $700+ and Nike – $200+) and yet you don’t provide the promised product? Further when massages, yoga mats, beach towels, food, beer and other items are promised to finishers, they should be there for all finishers not just the fastest ones or the ones running the shorter of the events scheduled that day. Those sponsors that sign up to provide the treats for the athletes help get the race put on and help the organizer make money doing so but they truly could care less about the full field of athletes as they already have their exposure, PR, money or recognition.

    My husband is an ultra runner and I have found that community of race directors, athletes and sponsors to be a bit more inclusive in their mentality about their paid competitors. They are supportive and friendly, and welcoming. I have actually heard sponsors say, “If a runner signs up to run and is promised pancakes at the finish, I will be here until the last runner has had their fill of pancakes because it is wrong to pack up and leave once the masses have come through.” Further, the ultra events are still more affordable than these big corporate events. The mass events bank on their popularity to fill their capacity so why worry about upsetting a few if it saves dollars? Those that got shafted can complain and choose not to come back and there will always be someone to fill their place. Perhaps I will think about switching to ultras when my IM event is done…

    • HBA, I’m sorry to hear about Nike, that sucks. I truly hope your 70.3 experience is better than that, or Holly’s experience.

      Meanwhile, I’m a relatively new convert to the trail running world, and eyeballing my first ultra. I have heard similar things about how amazing the ultra community is. I am looking forward to it!

  15. WTC has commented on this, apologized for the mistake and apparently some medals and hats were lost. Unless WTC has not fulfilled their stated goal of sending medals and hats, then why throw them under the bus? Unless you want something else for your sister like a race entry? Well I hope not, that would be greedy.

    • Hey Bob, thanks for the comment. They apologized AFTER I posted the blog. That’s all I wanted. (well, that and she would like her medal. Still doesn’t have it, but apparently it is now officially on the way). I’m getting around to an update, don’t you fret. ;)

      • Well, I did IMFL and while I was several hours faster, friends in our house said there was an issue and while we were all buying gear the next AM they were apologizing to people. So while they apologized to you when you posted the blog, they knew there was a problem and the issue was being resolved the next day. Mistakes happen. I am sure Rev3 has made a lot too.

        • Congrats on your finish! The point is, it is now almost 6 weeks later and the issue isn’t resolved. And the people they owe apologies to (not me) haven’t received apologies. EVERYONE makes mistakes, no doubt about it. It is how you handle those mistakes after the fact that matter.

    • I’ll be sure and update when I actually receive the package in the mail. I’m not looking for anything additional, just what every other athlete received. And for the record, I was told at the Finish Line by a Volunteer/Staff (It’s not clear who they were) as they wrote down my name, “We had more finishers than we anticipated.” I would have much rather heard “We lost some hats and medals.” I have worked as the Volunteer Coordinator for a local race with 5,000 participants, misplaced or delivered boxes, I can certainly understand. The implication that they did not anticipate the last 20 or so athletes? That still smarts a little.

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